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Kiefer Relishes Villain Role in ‘Pompeii’

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If Mount Vesuvius were to erupt in modern times, surely Kiefer Sutherland’s super-spy character Jack Bauer would find a way to minimize casualties and ultimately save the day. Alas, this is director Paul W.S. Anderson’s disaster film Pompeii, in which the city is destroyed by the volcano’s fury, and Bauer is nowhere to be found.

Instead, Sutherland was cast as Roman Senator Corvis, a cruel man whose only interest lies in gaining political power and making the heroic Milo (Game of Thrones star Kit Harington) suffer.

That villainy wasn’t even remotely on display in June during a visit to the film’s Toronto set, where the good-natured Sutherland – relaxed and comfortable in sunglasses, jeans and a T-shirt – had come in on his day off to discuss the making of Pompeii.

Spinoff Online: We hear your character is super-nice. He’s a really nice guy. He gets along with everybody…

Kiefer Sutherland: Obviously, he’s the antagonist of the film, but it’s very different. I’ve played a lot of nasty characters over the course of my career — I would think the worst one was a film called Eye for an Eye. This is not that guy. He’s very funny, in an awful way, but he’s very funny. With a class system like you had at that time, if someone was wealthy and powerful, the ease with which they dispatched other people’s lives was kind of frightening. He does it with great aplomb. He’s funny. I haven’t really had a character to play that has had the dialogue that is as rich as in the script, so it’s been a real pleasure. But you’re right, he’s an asshole.

With really big films like this, sometimes the complaint is the villain doesn’t seem to have much of a motivation. He’s just kind of evil or mean. Is there a play on class?

It’s two-fold. A lot of it directly informs an audience of that. He wants to marry this girl. He’s come to Pompeii to marry this girl and to take over the father’s company. He has a line where he says, “As soon as this deal is done and the marriage is settled …” The line earlier is my right-hand guy says, “What a mouth on her,” and he says, “Yes. As soon as the deal is done and the marriage is settled, I’ll take great pleasure in shutting it.” That’s exactly what he’s there for. The deal and the marriage, and then he goes back to Rome.

How does he deal with the crisis at hand once this chain of events starts happening?

With unbelievable arrogance, with the arrogancy you would expect. He actually has a line where he’s making a speech in the arena. The tremors start and he’s like, “Come on. Come on. Get over it.” He doesn’t pay attention to it. It’s not a threat to him. Everything he’s had in his life, he’s been able to control. It’s also an interesting kind of result in Pompeii when you actually look because it happened so fast. One of the most awesome things I saw there was a mother holding her child, and she died so quickly that she couldn’t bring her own child to her breast. She was literally holding her up like that and they were locked like that forever. I don’t think any of them had any idea that could possibly happen. That’s an interesting aspect of the movie when it gets into that stage.

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